Two Lebanese-Australian Killed in The Malaysia Airline Crash in Ukraine

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Update: According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two victims are Egyptian-Australian and not Lebanese.

Albert and Mary Rizk were on board of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 that was shot down over Ukraine two days ago. 298 people were killed in the crash, including 100 of the world’s leading Aids experts who were flying to an international conference in Melbourne. Moreover, there were members of an Australian family on board who lost two other relatives when Flight 370 disappeared back in March.

Sincere condolences to all the families. It’s quite unbelievable that someone decided to shoot down a plane just like that and kill 300 innocent passengers. I really hope they catch whomever did this.

Two Lebanese nationals, holding the Australian citizenship, were among the 298 people on board the Malaysian jetliner that was shot down over Ukraine. According to Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5), Albert and Mary Rizk are among the victims who died along with dozens of others in the tragedy on Thursday. They live in Melbourne, Australia.

At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines updated its nationality count of passengers, saying the plane carried 154 Dutch, 43 Malaysian – including the crew-, 27 Australian, 12 Indonesian, 9 British, 4 German, 5 Belgian, 3 Filipino and one person each from Canada and New Zealand. [Naharnet]

My Trip To Jordan: Part1

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As mentioned previously, I was in Jordan for a week back in May along with a couple of bloggers and media people courtesy of the Jordan Tourism Board. Before talking about the trip, I have to say I am quite impressed by the initiatives taken by Jordan to promote tourism in their country and through the JTB as opposed to what the Tourism Ministry does in Lebanon.

Moving on to the trip itself, and given that it was 1 week long, I thought I divide it into 2 parts:

- The first post covering the first 3 days of the trip that includes a short stop and dinner in Amman, the Pope event at Amman stadium, the dead sea and baptism site visits and the stay at the mountain resort Ma’In Hot Springs Evason in Ma’In.

- The second post covering the visit to Madaba (Mount Nebo), the desert experience in Wadi Rum, Petra by day and by night experience and last but not least our final stop in Aqaba.

WP_20140523_013 Overlooking Jordan

We took an early morning flight from Beirut to Amman (there are 7 flights every day) and got to Amman in less than 2 hours. It was my first time on a Royal Jordanian plane and the trip was quite smooth and the staff were very friendly. Upon arriving to the newly renovated Queen Alia International Airport, a bus and a tourist guide were waiting there to help us out and pick us up. The first hotel we stayed in was the Regency Palace hotel as it was very close to where the Pope’s mass is taking place and to the Jordanian cultural center where all the press conferences were being held.

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Night out in Amman and a selfie with Pope Francis
To be honest, the Regency Palace hotel was by far the worst hotel we stayed in during our trip to Amman as the rooms were dirty, the food was average and the hotel was right on a busy highway. After resting for a couple of hours, we headed out to the city center and had dinner at a beautiful authentic restaurant called Sufra. The restaurant is an old renovated house with a beautiful interior and a splendid terrace. The food was also quite good as we got to try few Jordanian dishes which were quite interesting (specially the Kafta wou Batata with T7eené instead of tomatoes).

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The second day was quite a busy one as we had to be ready by 10am for the Pope’s visit and we spent the whole day between the Jordanian cultural center and the Amman stadium. The security measures taken were quite drastic as there were 2 or 3 police officers every 20 meters and a lot of security checks. Nevertheless, everything went as planned and I got to see Pope Francis which I admire and respect a lot. I even took a selfie with him!

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The Dead Sea Experience: At the lowest point on Earth
Our next stop after Amman was at the Movenpick Hotels & Resorts which is located on the dead sea. As opposed to Regency Hotel, this was one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve ever been too. The resort was splendid, the rooms were amazing, the food was great and the facilities were everything one could ask for. As far as the dead sea experience is concerned, I went for a swim and it was quite a weird feeling as you float the whole time. I stayed for around 20 minutes as this is the recommended time then put some of that “magic” mud on my body. Note that it is not recommended to swim if you have a cut, nor is it advised to dunk your face in the water as your eyes will hurt real bad; you just have to lay back and navigate with your hands as if you’re in a tube.

WP_20140525_08_58_26_Pro At the lowest point on Earth

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The whole dead sea experience took less than an hour and we spent the rest of the day sunbathing and walking around the resort. I even found some private Jacuzzi entrance and managed to get in after one of the hotel employees gave me the pass code. It was one of the best Jacuzzis I’ve stayed in as well. If you ever want to visit the dead sea, there are a lot of cool resorts along the coast just like the Movenpick.

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Baptism Site

After leaving the Movenpick and before heading to Ma’In, we passed by the Baptism Site for a short visit. The Baptism Site of Jesus Christ, also known as Al-Maghtas, is one of the most important religious destinations specially for Christians. Despite its symbolism, there’s nothing much to see there except for the few churches and the main site next to the river.

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What was quite amazing there is that we were standing right on the Jordan River and the people on the other side of the river were in Israel. Even though we were separated by few meters only and no barriers, no one dares to cross the river from both sides.

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Evason Ma’In Hot Springs

After our short stop at the Baptism site, we drove for like an hour to get to Ma’In, a region situated in the mountains and hosting a beautiful resort next to Ma’In’s famous waterfalls. The resort is called Evason Ma’In Hot Springs (I have no idea how we pronounce Evason) and consists of a hotel and a spa, the Six Senses Spa, set underneath one of the three waterfalls found there.

The hotel itself is really nice and ideal for a weekend escape, the rooms were tidy and clean but there wasn’t much lighting at night for some reason. The biggest waterfall found there is not accessible to the public, but there are two other waterfalls that you can go to. One of them is located inside the Six Senses spa and you have to pay to go there while the other one located right outside the resort is free. There’s also a pool 200 meters away from the hotel but I didn’t like it much to be honest, as I would have preferred some infinity pool inside the resort with a couple of Jacuzzis to relax specially that they have a breathtaking view.

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As far as the waterfalls are concerned, it’s quite a unique experience and it feels quite weird to be standing underneath them. They call them the “healing waterfalls” because they apparently relax the muscles and make you feel better. All in all, I highly recommend this resort if you are heading to Jordan for a week and looking for a weekend escape. You don’t need more than a couple of days at Evason Ma’In Hot Springs.

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This pretty much covers the first part of my trip which I enjoyed quite a lot, but the best is yet to come to stay tuned for the second post where I will be talking about Petra and the desert experience mainly which were mind blowing!

ISF Clarification Regarding The Highway Picture That Went Viral

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bike via YasaLebanon

I am sure you’ve all seen the above picture by now. As confirmed by the ISF, it is not a fake photo but a real one and there are reasons why the ISF motorist did not stop the young man.

Here’s what the ISF had to say about this incident:
- On 13/07/2014 one of the Baabda ISF motorists was on the Naameh highway, when a civilian started making stunts with his bike right next to him. The policeman ordered him to stop the stunts several times but the biker didn’t cooperate. That’s when the policeman tried to arrest him but the biker sped away and the policeman stayed behind for safety purposes.
- Necessary disciplinary measures were taken against the policeman.
- Baabda ISF branch is committed to the safety of the drivers and is constantly patrolling the “Costa Brava – Khaldeh” highway.

I think the policeman should have chased the young man or called for reinforcements, but I love the fact that the ISF actually investigated the matter and clarified the issue through its social media channels. I really hope they will keep on listening to what the people have to say and take actions, because that’s the only way to build (a much needed) trust between the police and the citizens.

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Education Minister Elias Bou Saab Asks Schools To Respect Religious Freedom

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This statement comes one month after the Sabis controversy and clearly states that Sabis School has to amend its regulations and cannot by law ban the display of religious symbols. Personally speaking, I’d rather see secular schools in Lebanon and I wish Lebanese students would learn to co-exist away from religious and political considerations. However, the problem with Sabis is that it made an exception for veils which doesn’t make sense coming from a secular school.

Education Minister Elias Bou Saab called on Lebanese educational institutions Thursday to respect freedom of expression and religious practice, a month after SABIS School announced new regulations banning crosses while allowing hijab.

“We call on… public and private schools…to adhere to the content of Articles 9 and 10 of the Lebanese Constitution,” Bou Saab’s statement said, “by not issuing any regulations, decisions or teachings that could violate the [students’] freedom of religion.” [DailyStar]

Shakira Singing (Badly) a Fayrouz Song

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[YouTube] Start watching at Minute 10:30

MTV, Annahar and a couple of other news portals reported that Shakira shared this video but I only found it on some unofficial Facebook group. What caught my attention is that she was singing “A3tini Al Naya” for Fairouz which is a song that is taught in most Lebanese schools. I wonder who taught her that song because it’s a very bad song for belly dancing lol!

Meet Lebanon: An Iron Meteorite Found By NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover

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The massive iron meteorite is roughly two meters wide and might be the largest ever discovered on Mars. I have no idea why they called it Lebanon and whether it is related to our country or not. There’s a smaller piece that was found as well and dubbed “Lebanon B”.

It is worthy noting that the director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a Lebanese called Charles al-Achi. Check out [Here] other prominent Lebanese working for Nasa.

This rock encountered by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is an iron meteorite called “Lebanon,” similar in shape and luster to iron meteorites found on Mars by the previous generation of rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Lebanon is about 2 yards or 2 meters wide (left to right, from this angle). The smaller piece in the foreground is called “Lebanon B.” [Nasa]